Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 01/20/2020

Misunderstandings of Dukkha

My Post (7)

I’ve been increasingly aware of dukkha in my home life and went searching for some quick, digestible quotes. As is usually the case with the Buddhadhamma, good sound bytes are hard to find outside of the Dhammapada (the Stoics have us there). Searching, I came across an article by the Venerable Thanissaro Bhikkhu wherein he describes the many misunderstandings of dukkha.


He identified the locks of the problems in the shift from viewing the Four Noble Truths as the basis for understanding our suffering and how to be free from it to the three characteristics of existence (tilakhana). We see most Western teachers subscribe to this misunderstanding and virtually all Mahayanists as well due to their preoccupation with emptiness (suññata/shunyata) as the prescription for ending suffering. In the quote below the Venerable is critiquing the idea that we simply need to learn to passively accept impermanence in order to free ourselves from suffering:

“Even if we’re adept at moving from one changing thing to another, it simply means that we’re serial clingers, taking little bites out of every passing thing. We still suffer in the incessant drive to keep finding the next bite to eat.”
First Things First

Clearly, this is cold comfort for those of us who are aiming for the remainderless bliss of Nibbāna.


  1. Dissatisfaction a better word?

    • Hmm…well, dukkha is uniquely suited to house the constellation of meanings that encompass stress, dissatisfaction and abject suffering. Still, if it helps as a mental heuristic then there’s nothing wrong with seeing it as simply dissatisfaction I suppose (in this case at least).

      • As always the difficulty is in translating a word in one language into a different language. I have similar problems with my Nepalese wife who is a Newar and whose native language is Newari, Sanskrit based.

    • Restlessness perhaps?

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